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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Cardinal happy to see UK break-up
Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Cardinal O'Brien said Ireland had prospered
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has given his backing to independence north of the Border.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he would be "happy" if people in Scotland wanted separation and claimed independence would come "before too long".

In a newspaper interview, the cleric cited the success of smaller independent nations such as Ireland and Denmark to support his views.

He also voiced frustration with the current powers of Holyrood.

The 68-year-old's views have been welcomed by Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond.

Multi-national identities are harder to express than national ones
Cardinal O'Brien

In an interview with the Catholic Herald newspaper, Cardinal O'Brien said: "I would not get too involved in the politics of independence, but I am happy that, if it is the wish of the people, Scotland becomes an independent country.

"There is currently some frustration among the Scots about the say they have over what happens here, and that is part of what is pushing the independence movement.

"I can see this coming, perhaps not in the next few years, but before too long."

As the leader of a Scottish church, which is itself independent from England, he admitted it was difficult to argue for ecclesiastical but not political independence.

St George's Cross

He also talked about the benefits other small countries have experienced since gaining independence.

"Ireland would be an example of a country which has prospered since achieving independence," he said.

"I am aware of a growing sense of nationhood and national identity in England, exhibited recently during the World Cup campaign and reflected in the increasing appearance of the St George's Cross at such sporting fixtures and other gatherings.

"Ultimately multi-national identities are harder to express than national ones."

He said widespread public opposition to the government's plans to replace the UK's Trident nuclear system "highlighted a deep sense of frustration among many Scots".

Mr Salmond said: "Scotland's Cardinal is a man of vision and stature.

"Obviously he avoids party politics but I am delighted that he has issued positive signals about independence and self-determination for the nation."

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